Sirhind had worst child sex ratio in 2001, its daughters now first to get cash dole

FP

Omanpreet Kaur, a class VII student of Sirhind town, and Kajal, who studies in the same class in Ajnali village of Fatehgarh Sahib's Sirhind block, received stipends of Rs 750 each in their bank accounts on January 1. They are among the first 5,900 beneficiaries of Dhanalakshmi, India's direct benefits transfer (DBT) scheme for girl students and mothers of newborn girls.

While Fatehgarh Sahib qualified to be among the scheme's first 20 beneficiary districts owing to high enrollment for unique identification cards, its selection was also high on symbolism. The 2001 census showed Fatehgarh Sahib had the worst child sex ratio of 766, and Sirhind block had the largest number of missing daughters. The child sex ratio improved to 843 in 2011, but remains far below the national average.

"The selection of Sirhind as the country's first block to roll out direct cash transfer scheme under Dhanalakshmi scheme is symbolic as it was one of the worst sex-ratio blocks in the country in 2001. On January 1, we credited cash to the bank accounts of 5,900 beneficiaries. By the end of this week, we intend to take the total to more than 8,000 beneficiaries," deputy commissioner of Fatehgarh Sahib, Yashvir Mahajan, said.

The district which saw an explosion of ultrasound clinics through the 1990s, advertising 'Spend Rs 500 (on a sex determination test) now, save Rs 5 lakh (expenditure on a girl child) later', is now scouting for mothers of newborn daughters and girls studying up to class VIII to enroll them for Aadhar.

Until that process is complete, the district administration will make cash transfers through the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system.

"We are encountering problems in making the payment through Aadhar as many of the beneficiaries have not yet enrolled for the unique ID, and many do not have bank accounts. We are now enrolling targeted beneficiaries on priority and asking them to open bank accounts. We are now clearing the list of beneficiaries from 2009, the year of scheme's launch, to March 2012. Those belonging to 2012-13 are yet to be covered," Mahajan said.

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